Living simply leads to love. This message rings loud and clear in Courtney Carver’s new book Soulful Simplicity, like bells marking a new hour or resolutions for a new year.
For me, simplicity springs to mind the minimalist movement, which began trending after the Great Recession. The Minimalists site defines minimalism as “a tool to rid yourself of life’s excess in favor of focusing on what’s important — so you can find happiness, fulfillment, and freedom.”
Carver’s book takes the concept to a higher place — love. Love in relationships, work, and life.
Carver came to this realization after she was diagnosed with MS and sought to root out stress to cope. “Once I intentionally began to slow down and simplify my life, I began to heal, and most of the healing had nothing to do with multiple sclerosis,” she writes.
She describes how living simply pushed her to change jobs and start a blog, rethink the way she and her husband relate to one another, reprioritize how she spends time with her daughter, downsize from a 2,000-square-foot home to a 750-square-foot apartment, and pare down her wardrobe to just 33 pieces, including clothing, jewelry, and shoes.
As she puts it, “Simple is the new black.”
And yoga was her gateway to letting go. So was a daily practice of putting her hands over her heart and taking deep, cleansing breaths — in through the nose, out through the mouth.
Four Facets of Simple
Carver shares how she’s infused simplicity in four facets:
- Making Me: I Had to Start with the Inside
- Making Space: Clearing the Debt and Clutter
- Making Time: The Busy Boycott
- Making Love: What Really Matters
Timeless truisms permeate her work. Take these:
- “We miss opportunities every day by telling ourselves we can’t do it…. It’s good to think things through, but trust yourself to try new things too.”
- “If I push or back off just a tiny bit, I find that magical place between ease and strain called steadiness.”
Some statements defy logic at first blush. Like one from financial expert Dave Ramsey about the first step to rid yourself of debt: “Put away $1,000 in an emergency fund.” Carver, too, was skeptical about this practice initially. But she was willing to give it a go because she and her husband were part of the “78 percent of Americans who live paycheck to paycheck” and the “90 percent who buy things they can’t afford,” she noted.
Ramsey was a motivating source: “The best way to beat debt isn’t to break out a slide rule and an abacus; you have to change the way you think about money,” he said.
Per Ramsey’s advice, Carver and her husband paid off their smallest debts first — and gradually climbed out of debt.
Other bits of advice in the book may seem impossible in a world that proclaims more is better. Like these:
- “Let’s stop telling each other how busy we are.”
- “Every day for the next seven days, eliminate one thing from your calendar or to-do list.”
But Carver doesn’t leave us to figure out these challenges on our own. She urges delegating or dropping tasks, and suggests ways to avoid busy talk. Instead ask people, “What made you smile today?”
I plan to try out this simple, cheering question with family and friends as well as many of the other ideas Carver outlines. Ultimately, she found that changing her ways made more room for love in everything. After finishing her book, I’m more convinced that simplicity is synonymous with soul — I look forward to putting this into practice in 2018. Cheers to a new year!